Lisa Barr: A very brave Mom shared her story with GIRLilla Warfare. She discusses her “internal struggle” with her eldest daughter — who, in her view, has ‘everything’ — looks, confidence, social cool – in other words, the quintessential guy magnet. How do you love someone so deeply, and be jealous of her at the same time? How do you come to terms with those ‘forbidden’ emotions?
Anonymous, 47, Mom of three
I will never forget the day when my eldest daughter and I strolled through the mall looking for dresses for her first sorority formal at her university. As my daughter and I chatted mindlessly about what she needed for the dance, something continued to catch my eye — it was the lingering looks that men bestowed upon her as she walked by, seemingly unaware, in her yoga pants and flip-flops. There was absolutely no denying that those were “double-takes” and stares men instinctively bestow to those “chosen few” in life who possess that perfect combination of beauty and sexiness.
Admittedly, I was never one of Those Girls, not when I was 18 years old and certainly not at 47 years old. To be fair, with the right combination of a good hair day and a perfect shade of pink lip-gloss I admit to being attractive.
However, I have always fixated on those women who had that undefinably head-turning sexiness. They have a natural nonchalance, having been born with that power over men. Life seemed so shiny and unfavorably easy for them. Doors seemed to magically open under the lustful gazes of desirous men.They flirted effortlessly or cast a dismissive nod depending on their mood. They never seemed to work as hard on all the things that I seemed to struggle with. It was during an uneventful day at the mall, that I realized that my daughter was unmistakably one of those girls.
Later that day, I sat in my bathroom and began obsessively scrutinizing every new line and gray hair waving unapologetically to me, and I began to sob. Yes, as Oprah would famously say, the “Ugly Cry.” In those mascara-stained tears, lay the messy truth: I was jealous of my own daughter.
The only thing worse than admitting the truth was the aching shame. I kept this ugly secret to myself while obsessively wondering how pathetic I was to feel anything close to jealousy toward my own child. It made no logical sense. How could I be jealous of her becoming all that I hoped she would be? In this confusing turmoil of emotions, I finally realized that the answer could only be found by going deep inside the emotional time-capsule, back to my own college years.
The year was 1982. I was on my way to the University of Illinois weighing an extra 30 pounds after a year of eating too many banana creme pies from waitressing at a local pie shop. Right before leaving for college, I decided in all of my brilliant teenage wisdom that I should lop off my long brown hair and perm it into tight curls. Yes, even in the ’80s, that look was a disaster. So I entered the collegiate jungle with an unstylish tight pair of size 12 jeans, large self-imposed horrible hair, and a mountain of worries about the cost of school on my struggling middle-class parents. Fearful of the costs and my own insecurities of where I fit in, I decided not to join a sorority. This was yet another colossal mistake.
Joining a sorority would have given me an instant identity. A Greek label proudly emblazoned on my butt sweats would have easily and expediently identified who I was and provided me with the insider status that I so craved. Instead, I enviously observed the seamless way the sorority girls connected to one another and watched their innate sense of style that clumsily eluded me. Worst of all, was the “invisibility” I felt around the boys. I developed an irrational crush on one particular boy freshman year, who memorably said that “I was an overweight no one from nowhere.” With a blinding fervor, I spent 4 years trying to prove him wrong.
In the end, I actually did lose some pie weight, and also became great friends with some of those “sophisticated” sorority girls, but it is the echo of those cruel words of an 18-year-old boy that left an unhealed wound that I forgot I even (still) had.
It took my daughter leaving for her Big Ten college experience, for that Band-Aid to be finally yanked off that old wound. It was now exposed and left me with that sick feeling of regret and envy: She was the girl I wanted so desperately to be. She was doing it right. She joined the sorority of girls who sashayed down the streets and dated the cool, well-connected guys. She had the key to the frat clubs, where the cockiest of them still greeted her with the quiet reverence saved for the prettiest of girls. I listened to her rattle off the names of frats whose parties and dances she constantly attended. She effortlessly tossed together outfits that always seemed to be sexy but appropriate. She smoothly figured out how to say and do all of the things that I clumsily could not. And I feared that it was all too late for me to taste a few delicious morsels of that for myself.
I didn’t need the whole pie but a few crumbs was what I desperately craved.
That was three years ago and my daughter is now going into her senior year, and what has shocked and humbled me the most is that she is not much different than me. While she certainly has a better hairstyle, she, too has lived with her own fears and insecurities that every young woman must travel through.
While I looked at my daughter’s life through the reflection of my own cracked mirror, I now realize that she struggles too. She also feels lost and insecure, unsure how to navigate through many of the same things I did, only she is doing it in a pair of size 2 True Religion jeans.
She faced rejection from boys she adored and called me sobbing when her skin broke out and she felt too ugly to leave her sorority house. So perhaps, it has taken me three long years to grow up and become the middle-aged mom who never did it right myself but figured out how to help my own child do it better. And while I can never go back and fix the 18-year-old me, I can marvel at my own daughter as she tentatively starts her own journey into this madcap world of womanhood.
I had my own awkward turn at being a young woman, and now it is her turn. She has her own teenage battle scars that are all her own, and it is my deepest hope that she can look back 25 years later and say that she has no regrets. If she is really lucky, she will have a daughter just like her, who can quietly and wisely teach her mother how to pass the torch. And to be honest, I think I’m finally ready to let her take it.
GIRLilla Warfare: Have any similar stories to share? GW would love to hear from you. – xo LB< back